Employment figures look bleak for poor families

Tim Nichols, of the Child Poverty Action Group, on how it's not all good news from today's employment and unemployment statistics.

Tim Nichols is the Press and Parliamentary Officer of the Child Poverty Action Group

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) today announced figures (pdf) showing unemployment fell at its fastest pace in a decade for the February to April 2011 quarter. The total number of jobs also rose by 80,000. The chancellor, George Osborne, will no doubt cite these figures as evidence the economy has turned a corner.

But dig deeper and there is more to worry about. The claimant count for Jobseeker’s Allowance increased. The number of women on JSA has hit its highest point since 1996.

The total hours worked in the economy per week fell during the quarter, partly, but not wholly, accounted for by the extra holiday for the Royal Wedding. New jobs have been created in services, but the number of jobs in manufacturing has fallen.

Perhaps most worrying of all is the extent to which the jobs that are now being created are part time. The annual growth rate for part time work is 2.3%, but for full time work it is just 0.9%.

Government figures show that couple families only able to access part time work are more than twice as likely to be in poverty as those able to access full time work. As these figures are for the quarter to April 2011, they predate the main bulk of the government’s cuts programme, which only really started to hit from April onwards. It will now increase downward pressure on employment rates over future quarters.

So despite some superficial good news on the total number of jobs, the detail in the figures may be more suggestive of economic contraction than growth.

To achieve significant reduction in UK child poverty, parents who are without jobs, have insufficient working hours, or receive poverty pay, need better employment opportunities. There is unfortunately no sign that the economy contains, or is about to create, the job vacancies needed. A greater certainty is that many parents will lose work due to the public sector cuts.

Left Foot Forward will have more analysis of the June 2011 Labour Market Statistical Bulletin later today.

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